Status of Jerusalem

The status of Jerusalem is disputed in both international law and diplomatic practice. [1] [2] [3] Both the Israelis and the Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital city, [4] and their dispute over it has been described as "one of the most intractable issues in the Israel–Palestine conflict". [5] The conflicting claims include issues of sovereignty over the city, or parts of it, including access to holy sites.

The main dispute revolves around the legal status of East Jerusalem and especially the Old City of Jerusalem, while broader agreement exists regarding future Israeli presence in West Jerusalem. [1] De jure, the majority of United Nations (UN) member states and most international organisations do not recognize Israel's sovereignty over East Jerusalem, which came under its control after the 1967 Six-Day War, or its 1980 Jerusalem Law proclamation, which declared a "complete and united" Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. [6] As a result, most countries locate their foreign embassies in Tel Aviv and its suburbs rather than in Jerusalem.

Many UN member states formally adhere to the UN proposal that Jerusalem should have an international status, as outlined in General Assembly Resolution 181 (II). [7] The European Union has also followed the UN's lead in this regard, declaring Jerusalem's status to be that of a corpus separatum, or an international city to be administered by the UN. [8] [9] While the U.S. historically supported the establishment of an international regime for Jerusalem, it recognized the city as Israel's capital in December 2017 under the leadership of President Donald Trump. [10] The proposal that Jerusalem should be the future capital of both Israel and Palestine has also gained international support, [11] with endorsements coming from both the United Nations [12] [13] and the European Union. [14] [15]


Jerusalem municipal area

From the end of the Ottoman–Mamluk War in 1517 until the First World War, Jerusalem was part of the Ottoman Empire. Since the 1860s, Jews have formed the largest religious group in the city and since around 1887, Jews have been in the majority. [16] In the 19th century, European powers vied for influence in the city, usually on the basis of extending protection over Christian churches and Holy Places. A number of these countries also established consulates in Jerusalem. In 1917 and following the First World War, Great Britain was in control of Jerusalem; from 1923 as part of the Mandate of Palestine. The principal Allied Powers recognized the unique spiritual and religious interests in Jerusalem among the world's three great monotheistic religions as "a sacred trust of civilization", [17] [18] and stipulated that the existing rights and claims connected with it be safeguarded in perpetuity, under international guarantee. [19]

However, the Arab and Jewish communities in Palestine were in mortal dispute and Britain sought United Nations assistance in resolving the dispute. In November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine (Resolution 181), which called for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with Jerusalem being established as a corpus separatum, or a "separated body" with a special legal and political status, administered by the United Nations. [20] Jewish representatives accepted the partition plan, while representatives of the Palestinian Arabs and the Arab states rejected it, declaring it illegal. [1]

In May 1948, the Jewish community in Palestine issued the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel. Israel became a member of the United Nations the following year and has since been recognised by most countries. [21] The countries recognizing Israel did not recognize its sovereignty over Jerusalem generally, citing the UN resolutions which called for an international status for the city. [22]

With the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel and the subsequent invasion by surrounding Arab states, the UN proposal for Jerusalem never materialised. The 1949 Armistice Agreements left Jordan in control of the eastern parts of Jerusalem, while the western sector was held by Israel. [23] Each side recognised the other's de facto control of their respective sectors. [24] The Armistice Agreement, however, was considered internationally as having no legal effect on the continued validity of the provisions of the partition resolution for the internationalisation of Jerusalem. [25] In 1950, Jordan annexed East Jerusalem as part of its larger annexation of the West Bank. Though the United Kingdom and Pakistan recognized Jordanian rule over East Jerusalem, [26] no other country recognized either Jordanian or Israeli rule over the respective areas of the city under their control. [23]

Following the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel declared that Israeli law would be applied to East Jerusalem and enlarged its eastern boundaries, approximately doubling its size. The action was deemed unlawful by other states who did not recognize it. It was condemned by the UN Security Council and General Assembly which described it as an annexation and a violation of the rights of the Palestinian population. In 1980, Israel passed the Jerusalem Law, which declared that "Jerusalem, complete and united, is the capital of Israel". [27] The Security Council declared the law null and void in Resolution 478, which also called upon member states to withdraw their diplomatic missions from the city. The UN General Assembly has also passed numerous resolutions to the same effect. [28] [29] [30]